Meteorologists ‘humbled’ after snowfall forecasts fall well short of expectations

Snow begins falling in Pawleys Island SC

Snow falling in Pawleys Island SC.
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Snow falling in Pawleys Island SC.

Mother Nature can sometimes humble even the best of meteorologists.

Forecasts of up to four inches of snow on the Grand Strand fell flat on Wednesday, with the area receiving only a slight dusting. The bulk of wintry precipitation locally fell as sleet and freezing rain.

According to WPDE Channel 15 meteorologist Ed Piotrowski, the dramatic change in forecast was due to a low pressure shifting closer to the coast.

“It brought us slightly warmer air, and that combined with a pocket of dry air that hung over Horry County left us kind of out of the loop in terms of snow,” he added.

Piotrowski wasn’t alone in that assessment, as the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., also forecast four inches of snowfall locally.

“People demand precision, but precision doesn’t always equal accuracy,” he said. “We can forecast things 10 days ahead and think we have everything nailed down, but the atmosphere is fluid and dynamic. Sometimes you don’t know until the morning of, and even then there might be some alterations to the forecast.”

Further down the coast, Charleston received up to six inches of snow, while areas of Georgetown County received between two and three inches.

Larger amounts were found in the Pee Dee region of the state, as portions scored up to five inches of fresh powder.

All of Horry County was not excluded from the party, with reports of significant snowfall in Aynor, Conway and Longs.

“It is just one of those humbling things,” Piotrowski said. “You expect the fact Horry County is north of places like Georgetown and Charleston, that it would have better chances of snowfall. As we saw today, that isn’t always the case.”

What is the longtime local meteorologist sure of? The fact motorists in the area should proceed with caution tomorrow morning with temperatures in the teens and low 20s.

“Driving should be horrible (Wednesday night) through Thursday morning,” Piotrowski said. “And because those cold conditions are going to hang with us for a little bit, we may see some thawing during the day and then refreezing at night.”

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII